Utah Station, which opened in St. Louis’ Benton Park neighborhood in August, is now showcasing vegan comfort food, including pizzas, sandwiches and more with house-made vegan “meats.”
“Basically, we took a standard menu that would have 90 percent meat and fish options and 10 percent vegan options, and we reversed that,” says executive chef Chris Bertke, who adopted a vegan diet 26 years ago. “We’re doing 90 percent vegan items and 10 percent meat items.”
Bertke – a St. Louis native who has cooked in a number of local kitchens, most recently for a high-end catering business – partners with owner Carrie Bauer at the eatery. According to Bertke, Bauer also operates two restaurants with her husband at downtown St. Louis’ cherished City Museum.
Bauer worked with building developer King Campo LLC to renovate the roughly 1,200-square-foot former 1930s-era service station, which had been vacant more than 20 years. Restorations included retaining the exterior’s porcelain enameling as well as the interior’s brick walls and window structures.
The dining room seats 40 guests, with two garage doors that (weather permitting) open onto an outdoor patio with an additional 50 to 60 seats. Bauer and her father built picnic tables that include custom wells that can fit herb planters or pans of ice for keeping drinks cool. Additional features include outdoor fire pits and a garden with native Missouri plants.
From the menu, guests can choose from Bertke’s creations, including artisan build-your-own 12-inch pizzas. Topping options include house-made vegan sausage, house-made vegan pepperoni and a variety of veggies, among them banana peppers, green olives and caramelized onion. (Meats such as bacon and ham are also available.) Guests likewise can choose from red sauce or herbed, roasted garlic olive oil, and mozzarella or a vegan “cheese” blend.
Vegan appetizer options include poutine with fries, house-made brown gravy, vegan cheese curds and fresh herbs. Additional comfort food highlights include takes on fast-food favorites, such as the Big Mak “burger” and Crack Tacos that riff on their Jack in the Box counterparts, with three deep-fried corn tortillas, soy-based “veef,” shredded lettuce, American “cheese,” hot sauce and a side of ranch.
“We’re doing something different here that’s a result of years and years of experimenting,” Bertke says. “Meat eaters are coming in and eating vegan stuff. It’s good to see people have open minds to try new things.”
The menu, incidentally, features three options for card-carrying carnivores: pulled pork, a BLT and a burger featuring grass-fed beef from Ava, Illinois’ Dierks Farms, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and the guest’s choice of cheese on a sesame bun. So whether they’re hungering for something veggie-based or not, theatergoers wishing to “top off the tank” should visit Utah Station before viewing Play from Troupe.
On the beverage side, guests can choose from a selection of vegan-friendly wines, local canned beers and mixed drinks like a refreshing, boozy house lemonade made with Kansas City, Missouri’s Lifted Spirits jalapeño- and herb-infused vodka and topped with fresh mint.
Utah Station, 1956 Utah St., St. Louis, 314-588-8099, utahstation.weebly.com